On Eid, the captive Syed Ali Geelani did a ‘boost talk’ to keep his NIA-battered camp afloat

Geelani spends his 19th consecutive Eid under house detention at his Hyderpora residence. [FPK Photo/Arif Nazir]

Barred from offering his 19th consecutive Eid prayer, the Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Geelani invoked Quran, the Prophet and Iqbal in house captivity to boost his NIA-battered Hurriyat camp. Amid the ritualistic Eid curbs on him, the resistance leader exhorted the youth ‘to find the way forward by coming to the common terms’.

Only police faces and armoured vehicles have changed outside Syed Ali Geelani’s Hyderpora residence since 2010. While the captivity remains, the captive who takes New Delhi head-on has stayed the way sleuth files describe him: The incorrigible secessionist.

He sets his own agenda for entering into any dialogue process with the Government of India. The primary condition remains: Declare Kashmir as a UN-recognized dispute.

But as New Delhi is seemingly flexing its military-intelligence muscle on Kashmir’s resistance camp for some time now, the Geelani group is apparently reeling under the major offensive. 

Even as he defied his own frail frame by turning up at the gates lately to take a dig at the Indian democracy, the authorities once again barred him from offering his Eid prayers.

In house captivity, and amid the sweltering August sun, the ailing Hurriyat patriarch (whose dogged house detention made him a prisoner in his own home) entered the lawn filled with his admirers, party members and supporters.

Despite being slowed down by age, the 88-year-old Geelani showed mindfulness to read the hopelessness on the visitors’ faces.

He took his time to respond to that.

To begin with, he quoted Allama Iqbal for his visitors.

“Mout hai ek sakht tar jis ka gulaami hai naam,
Makr-o-fan khawajgi kash samjta gulaam”

(Harder than death is what thou call’st slavery,
would that slave understand master’s tricks.)

A resounding silence ensued in the sunny lawn, where before Geelani’s arrival, concerns on the valley’s current situation, including the judicial assault on the Article 35-A, BJP’s possible comeback on JK’s turbulent throne and ruthlessness of the armed forces were being expressed. 

Like a war veteran wisened with the combat wisdom, the ailing old man whose followers rally behind him—“Na Jukne Wala, Na Bikne Wala”—took a calculative pause, before responding with another couplet of the Poet of the East.

“Ae kh gulami say hai rooh teri muzmahil,
Seena’ay be-soz mein doond khudi ka mukaam”

(Thy soul is weary under the stress of slavery,
build niche for khudi in thy impassive breast.)

This resolve came from the man who became the default target of unionist politics in Kashmir since 2010. As the summer uprising thawed that year, Omar Abdullah government confined him to his residence, as if punishing the man for his political beliefs. The curbs on Geelani continued after Omar was replaced by the Mufti father-daughter duo.

“Do you remember the last time we were here?” one of the visitors whispered to the guy sitting next to him.

“Of course, I do. Wasn’t it few months back when Peer Saab [Geelani] was allowed to offer Friday prayers after almost 8 years?”

That long walk to freedom was soon cut short, and the old man again found himself confined to his residence.

While everyone in the lawn was waiting to shake hands with Geelani, a boy after getting a kiss on the forehead from him, blurted out, “My god! Peer Saab has turned so weak!”

The signs of concern were clear on the boy’s face and so were the signs of weakness on Geelani’s face.

Soon as the leader asked his men to bring some refreshment for the ‘guests’, everyone began relishing halwa. Gawking minutely the mood inside, Geelani then spoke about the larger hitch in his ranks: Sign of hopelessness.

“As Almighty says in the Holy Quran,” the man holding sway over masses in Kashmir began, “Never lose hope, no matter what. And we Kashmiri people have this strength of not losing hope in the worst times that we’ve faced in the past. It might seem that our enemy has blocked every door in our resistance but the door of hope is something that they can’t reach.”

Geelani addressing a public gathering at his Hyderpora residence in 2018. [FPK Photo/Arif Nazir]

Suddenly as a middle-aged man entered and interrupted him with his Eid greeting, Geelani turned taciturn and thoughtful, before replying in his own style, “Oppressed and slaves don’t have an Eid to celebrate.”

At that point, a pervasive hush ensued in the lawn. Many were reminded of the Hurriyat leaders who faced the NIA raids and arrests, and were subsequently sent to Tihar Jail, including Geelani’s son-in-law.

The Hurriyat chief had to invoke Allama, again, to boost the morale of the visitors.

“Haqeeqat-e-abdi hai maqaam-e-Shabiri,
Badalte rehte hai andaaz Kufi-o-Shami”

(The place of Hussain (RA) is fact, not bound to space or date;
though the Syrians and the disbelievers may often change their want and way.)

Explaining the couplet in context of Kashmir’s present situation, Geelani insisted on the need of becoming vigilant to the moves of the state.

As he spoke, his visitors wondered about his persistent detention. Much of that mulling came from the fact that Geelani has been barred from stepping out of his residence from the last eight years, and disallowed to interact with the masses.

Even as New Delhi regularly sent her peaceniks and emissaries to break the ice with him, he regularly found himself grappling with the stringent curbs. His followers often argue that his constant captivity not only impacted his health, but also prepared a larger ground for ‘anarchy’, which even threatened to make the Hurriyat ‘irrelevant’ in Kashmir.

Out of his caging, however, Geelani was often taken out as a pale and haggard man, rushed for emergency medical treatment.

“Can anyone help me go inside, I need to take some water,” Geelani said, as the sun turned intense overhead. With the help of a few people, he went inside.

For the day, the authorities might’ve again stopped him from offering Eid prayers or giving a half an hour sermon, but they couldn’t stop footfalls from different parts of the valley converging inside his lawn.

As Geelani returned, he resumed his Eid address to the youth. “Whenever you fall in contradictions and confusions,” he said, in his feeble voice, “don’t fight with each other but consult the book of Allah and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). You’ll find the way forward by coming to the common terms.”

“After speaking for almost two hours, he turned tearful and cupped his hands towards the Heavens to pray for the Mazloom Qaum in his trembeling voice. He concluded the captive Eid Milan with Allama’s couplet.” [FPK Photo/Arif Nazir]

Kashmiri youth have to understand the criticalities of the situation and also take up the responsibility to counter the policies of the agencies that are hurting the resistance, Geelani continued. “There’re ups and downs in any resistance movement but keep firm belief in this, that victory will be ours as truth has never ever lost to power.”

After speaking for almost two hours, he turned tearful and cupped his hands towards the Heavens to pray for the Mazloom Qaum in his trembeling voice. He concluded the captive Eid Milan with Allama’s couplet.

“Khuda nay aj talak uss quom ki haalat nahi badly,
Na ho jisko khayal aap apni haalat badalnay ka”

(God has never flipped the fate of that nation,
that had no will to flip its own fate.)

With that, he rose up to return to his captive room.


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